Published Tue, Oct 30, 2012 3:13 pm Dateline
In the current economic climate, it can be difficult for any school district to pass a levy, and the Warren Local School District has had a particularly hard time.
This election cycle marks the seventh time the district has had a school levy on the ballot and school leaders are hoping that this time is the charm.
The levy is an additional property tax which amounts to fifty cents for each hundred dollars of property tax valuation, for a period of 10 years. There is also a bond issue on the ballot for a total of $10.7 million to build new schools, which will be paid back over 20 years.
For most residents, this amounts to about $520 in additional property taxes, plus the bond issue costs.
Warren Local Student Expenses
Warren Local’s overall expenditures per student total just a little more than $9,000, which is one of the lowest in the state, according to the Ohio Department of Education.
Warren Local School District Superintendent Thomas Gibbs says the levy is not going to make the district a top spender.
“We understand that we’re never going to be a suburban district that’s going to spend $15,000-$20,000 per student,” said Gibbs. “We understand; we are not asking for that.”
Despite low funding, Warren Local was recently given a designation of “excellent” by the Ohio Department of Education.
An “excellent” rating means that the district met 94 to 100 percent of the Ohio Department of Education indicators for that school year.
While Warren Local has received an “excellent” in academic areas, Gibbs says the district's future improvement is at risk and it is financially lacking in important areas, such as transportation for students.
Despite the fact that the school district covers a 200 square mile area, it is not able to provide high school busing.
“There are a lot of basic programs, like high school busing, that we’re not able to offer our students because we don’t have the dollars available to do that,” said Gibbs.
Warren Local works in conjuction with the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission to help develop the facilities master plan for the district that puts all of the children into adequate eduation facilities.
"It's a very difficult economy for any district to pass a school levy," said Rick Savors, Commision Chief of Media Relations. "We're seeing, across the state, that it's taking multiple times in order to pass levies. So, it doesn't suprise me that it has failed previously."
Savors says the commission has been working with Warren Local School District for several years now to address problems with its current school buildings.
By passing the levy, Gibbs says school repairs would be paid for out of the levy fund, and that would free up general fund dollars to bring back high school busing.
Resident Christina Frasher says bringing back busing might help the overall attendance and success of students.
“For people who are lower income, that’s very critical,” Frasher said. “I know some people don’t have cars or the access to get their kids to school. It might help improve attendance and truancy might go down if people have easier access to schools.”
The Warren Local District primarily is located in Washington County, with a few students coming from Athens County. That means district voters come from both counties.
This levy has been on the ballot every election since May 2010. The election with the widest vote margin occurred in November 2011.
It was defeated in both counties with 71.43 percent of Athens County, and 61.35 percent of Washington County voting "no."
The closest vote occurred only a few months earlier in the May 2011 election.
While 71.43 percent of Athens County residents voted "no", it was a virtual tie in Washington County: 49.93 percent of voters said “yes” and 50.07 percent voted “no” -- a margin of only eight votes.
“When you lose an election by eight votes, there’s certainly some mourning that goes on; it’s pretty devastating,” said Gibbs.
In the face of cutbacks and increased class sizes, Warren Local is determined to continue doing the best job it can, and the superintendent hopes voters will give the district the resources needed to make that best job, "excellent" in the eyes of the state and students.